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Elian Gonzalez Case: Federal Judge Grants Attorney General Legal Grounds to Send 6-Year-Old Boy Home to Cuba

Aired March 21, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: An important ruling in the Elian Gonzalez case, that is where we will start. A federal judge today sided with the government, giving the attorney general legal grounds to send the 6-year-old boy home to his father in Cuba. But don't look for Elian to pack his bags just yet.

CNN's Mark Potter joins us from the courthouse in Miami with the story -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Lou, this ruling is a major victory for the U.S. Justice Department, which wants to send Elian Gonzalez back to his father in Cuba. Juge Michael Moore, here at the federal courthouse behind me, threw out the lawsuit that had been filed by Elian Gonzalez's relatives here in Miami, asking that boy be given an asylum hearing. But the judge said that the only person who could make that decision is the U.S. attorney general, Janet Reno, and she has said that the ultimate decision is actually made by the boy's father in Cuba. And as we all know, he has said that he does not want an asylum hearing, he wants his son back with him in Cuba.

Elian's Miami relatives say they are very disappointed by the judge's ruling.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S COUSIN: They need to look at what this 6-year-old wants and what he has seen, and what he saw. And I think the most precious thing he had, which was his mother, he saw her own death, and he really knew where she was bringing and why she was bringing him, and those are the same reasons why he doesn't want to go back. And to this point, they haven't looked at what he wants, what he feels, and what he needs are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: The attorneys for the family say they too are surprised and disappointed by Judge Moore's ruling, and say that they plan to appeal. Attorney General Janet Reno says the Justice Department officials in Washington will be meeting with officials here in Miami to determine what to do next.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JANET RENO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It has been four months since Elian was separated from his father and lost his mother, it is time for this little boy, who has been through so very much, to move on with life at his father's side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

POTTER: Miami immigration attorney Ira Kurzban praises the judge's decision and urges Attorney General Reno to move swiftly, as swiftly as possible, to return the boy to his father in Cuba.

And Judge Moore, in his ruling today, indicated that each day that passes is another day lost between Elian and his father.

Mark Potter, CNN, reporting live from Miami.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, so far, the Cuban government has not responded to today's court ruling. But the decision met with wide approval on the streets of Havana.

CNN's Havana bureau chief Lucia Newman is watching for reaction -- Lucia.

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Good afternoon, Natalie.

Well, this was clearly the decision that the Cuban government and, most importantly, the boy's father had been waiting for, a decision they believe had taken too long already. Juan Miguel Gonzalez, the boy's father, we are told, has been confers over the last few hours with his American attorney, but he has made no public appearance or comment as of yet.

We are told, however, that Juan Miguel Gonzalez has not, as of this very moment, applied for a visa to the United States to go fetch his son. he has said all along he will not do so until he has absolute air-tight guarantees, that he would be traveling simply to pick him up and bring him right back to Cuba.

The Cuban government has made no comment. It says that it is studying the court decision. But on the streets of Havana, most people are welcoming the decision, although with caution.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Above all, this is not a victory for the father, but rather his right as a father. This isn't a political problem. It's a human issue and they shouldn't delay his return any more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I give thanks to God for that decision. It's God's will and it is also what is just because children have to be by their parent's side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I think this can't go on any longer than it has, the delay has been too long, not only because of the judicial situation, but especially for the boy, who is being affected psychologically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWMAN: Now we understand from sources close to boy's family here in Cuba that what they would like is for U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to act immediately before a court appeal can be lodged in the United States and have the boy returned here immediately, but that does not seem likely.

So, For now, what the family here feels is that it has come a step closer, but only a step, to recovering Elian Gonzalez.

This is Lucia Newman reporting live from Havana.

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